Director Darren Aronofsky scores extra brownie points for concocting a unique and altogether edgy vision of the classical Biblical tale of Noah, albeit one that takes extreme artist license with the original text. It takes much gumption to radically tinker with a tale of this nature especially when one considers how sacrosanct the source material is for a large portion of the global population. However, while Aronofsky deserves credit for being bold the end result is a film that feels inherently discombobulated as if it has been methodically constructed to appeal to both his devoted fanbase which expects a strong psychological component and those viewers who would be more content in watching epic action sequences more in line with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings series.
On paper 47 Ronin sounds like a compelling proposal to marry a time-honored Japanese classic tale with a kind of modern The Lord of the Rings style take on the material. While this might initially sound jarring a close look at Japanese entertainment be it feature films, TV series or anime shows a strong supernatural trend where demons either co-exist or openly oppose the human world. This at least lends some credibility to 47 Ronin where the filmmakers have decided to amplify the source material with the addition of ogres, mystical powers and huge rampaging monster boars. The fact that the resulting film is so decidedly bland and unfocused is a real wonder as it feels as if too many competing interests have caused the film to simply go awry at nearly every turn.
Director Ronny Yu’s Saving General Yang attempts to weave a traditional war story that focuses heavily on themes of familial loyalty amidst a roiling time in Ancient Chinese history when the throne was under siege from an invading barbarian horde. All the ingredients seem to be here including massive clashing CG armies, political gamesmanship and of course, emotionally wringing moments set to an appropriately moving soundtrack. Nevertheless, it all never really works as it should as the final product comes off as inherently bland with occasional bouts of extremely manufactured circumstances that really derail the film, especially as it enters its third act.
“A Long time ago, we use to be friends but I haven’t thought of you lately at all. If ever again, a greeting I send to you, short and sweet to the soul is all I intend.”
Listening to The Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends” after all these years really feels incredibly nostalgic and, in this case, all the more so as this is the theme song to the cult TV show, Veronica Mars. It comes as no surprise that director/writer Rob Thomas draws inspiration from the song and these first few lines basically encapsulates the entire Veronica Mars Movie experience. This is a feature film purposely made by and for fans and the end result is more than worth it with a few caveats.
Once at the top of the Hollywood A-List, Kevin Costner has seen his successful career take a decade-long nosedive as he basically disappeared from cinemas. However, of late he’s had a mini resurgence of popularity especially after his well-received performance in the TV mini-series, Hatfields & McCoys which saw him reunited with director Kevin Reynolds who helmed Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld. After a decent turn in supporting parts for films such as the recent Jack Ryan reboot and Man of Steel, Costner now finds himself back in a major leading role with 3 Days to Kill. Unfortunately, for him, this is not the movie in which to re-establish his Hollywood credentials.
One day director Paul W.S. Anderson is going to make a decent movie. Unfortunately, that day hasn’t yet arrived. Anderson, best known for his work on the Resident Evil franchise, has had a decidedly checkered filmography, filled with less than successful films that have never really won the hearts of critics or moviegoers. That said the man has his fleeting moments of creativity but has never been able to successfully translate these into a full feature-length film. His newest movie Pompeii is truly indicative of this as it vacillates from instances of extreme yet, unintentional, hilarity to visually captivating spectacle that easily rivals movies from director Roland Emmerich.
Fans of the book will probably come away feeling satisfied at this big screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s landmark science fiction novel but there is also no doubting that the final product feels inherently cramped, truncated and altogether missing a large dose of heart. Editing the dense source material into a two hour feature film was always going to be a Herculean task and though director/writer Gavin Hood does an admirable job of hitting all the major plot points the fact remains that it might have served the source material better if this project were instead a 10 episode HBO show where the complex nuances, allegories and character development would surely have added to the rich tapestry that Card had crafted.
I’m probably going to be in the minority here but Wilson Yip’s A Chinese Ghost Story remake of the 1987 classic of the same name, originally staring Joey Wong and Leslie Cheung, is more than a competent take on the tale that will achieve its primary goal – in bringing the story to a new generation of fans who, have no compunction to ever rent or buy a movie older than five years of age. That is not to say this new version is in any way better than the original but it does at least attempt to mix things up with a radical revision to the primary love story that puts a new spin on old material. Some will like it and others will rant at the dying of the light that this new version is sacrileges but they would be missing a decent tragic romance that at least is much more restrained than other recent fair that attempts emotional manipulation with the razor sharp skill of an abattoir butcher (I’m looking at you, The Sorcerer and the White Snake).